Writing in Substack, journalists Glenn Greenwald and Anthony Tobin wrote about the House’s May 10 vote in which they approved Biden’s $33 billion spending package for Ukraine, then decided “what the hell?” and added an additional $7 billion on top of that.
This came on the heels of an additional $14 billion previously spent in April, about ten weeks into a war which some predict may last years as opposed to months.
As expected, Democrats unanimously approved the vote, including so-called war “doves” such as AOC, Tlaib, Omar and other “squad members.” The final vote saw 368 House members vote yes, while all 57 nay votes came from Republicans.
Meanwhile in the upper chamber, the Senate also approved the aid package, with moved “quickly and with little debate” by an overwhelming margin, with eleven Republicans voting no.
Even so-called anti-war zealot Bernie Sanders (I-VT) voted for the package, this despite writing an op-ed back in February in The Guardian where he warned about the “severe dangers of bipartisan escalation of war.”
As noted by the authors, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) attempted to delay Senate passage of the bill, asking for some form of accountability and safeguards in order to get an idea where exactly the money was going and how it was going to be spent.
One might think that Senators might be interested in such, however when you’re printing money like a drunken sailor on shore leave, who needs accountability?
As expected, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) took Paul to task for actually acting like a representative, accusing him of being an isolationist. Then, the party who is concerned about “global climate change” caused by greenhouse gases loaded the bill in a jet and flew it in the neighborhood of 10,000 miles to South Korea, where Biden signed it into law.
Paul, however, was hardly alone in expressing concern about the lax safeguards accompanying the spending package. On Monday, in the vicinity of two dozen House Republicans sent a letter to the White House demanding more specificity and assurances about how the weapons are going to be used. That effort was leg by Rep. Yvette Herrell (R-NM).
The letter in part expressed the same concerns raised by Sen. Paul.
“We write today to express grave concern about the lack of oversight and accountability for the money and weapons recently approved by Congress for Ukraine,” it started.
“The aid package approved by Congress provides unprecedented funding for a foreign conflict in which the United States is not fighting, while there have been no significant hearings or substantive briefings on the use of the money and weapons being provided at taxpayer expense.”
The Republicans were also very concerned that given a documented history of illicit arms-trafficking in Ukraine, the sophisticated weapons might find their way to terrorist organizations. Given the history of the Biden administration with surrendering such weapons to terrorists, such as in Afghanistan, those concerns are well-founded.
“According to a 2017 Small Arms Survey briefing on arms trafficking, over 300,000 small arms disappeared from Ukraine between 2013 and 2015 and only 13 percent were recovered. Criminal networks, corrupt officials, and underpaid military personnel can make a profitable business from the sale of arms from Ukrainian military stockpiles. For example, in 2019, the Ukrainian Secret Service uncovered a plot by Ukrainian soldiers to sell 40 RGD-5 grenades, 15 grenade launchers, 30 grenade detonators, and 2,454 rounds of ammunition for 75,000 Ukrainian hryvnia or around $2,900.”
Even sudden warmongers CNN admitted recently, according to the piece, that “the US has few ways to track the substantial supply of anti-tank, anti-aircraft, and other weaponry it has sent across the border into Ukraine.”
The Biden administration even admitted that the US doesn’t have the ability to fully track all the shipments, acknowledging the possibility that “some of the shipments may ultimately end up in unexpected places.” When asked about the change of heart by the Biden administration in sending heavy weaponry to Ukraine, reporters were told, “I couldn’t tell you where they are in Ukraine and whether the Ukrainians are using them at this point.”
That makes the objections by Senate and House Republicans seem pretty well-founded at this point.
The House letter takes the administration to task over their apparent lack of concern over Ukraine’s history of corruption and the possibility the weapons sent by American taxpayers could find their way to the black market, risking not only US national security, but that of our European allies.
Despite voting in favor of the package, Rep. Cori Bush (D-MO), the only squad member who actually explained her support for the bill, raised similar concerns as Republicans in a written statement explaining her yes vote:
“Additionally, at $40 billion, this is an extraordinary amount of military assistance, a larger percentage of which will go directly to private defense contractors. In the last year alone, the United States will have provided Ukraine with more military aid than any country in the last two decades, and twice as much military assistance as the yearly cost of war in Afghanistan, even when American troops were on the ground. The sheer size of the package given an already inflated Pentagon budget should not go without critique. I remain concerned about the increased risks of direct war and the potential for direct military confrontation.”
Ok, so Bush couldn’t resist taking a shot at the Pentagon budget, however her points are well taken, especially where it concerns the saber rattling that seems inherent in the package.
The twenty-two signers of the letter to the White House also questioned whether the administration was complying with the Arms Export Control Act of 1976, which governs and limits the types of weapons which may be exported to other countries by the US Government.
The law was designed to get a handle on end-use of US supplied weapons, the authors wrote. It also regulates any arms transfers which could result in the escalation of a conflict.
With all of that in mind, Republican lawmakers raised the following questions:
- What steps has Ukraine taken to ensure weapons supplied to them are not falling into the hands of criminal networks or being sold for profit?
- How exactly is the U.S. government complying with the Arms Export Control Act and ensuring that end-use monitoring of defense articles and defense services adhere to all foreign military sales standards?
- Has the U.S. discovered whether any weapons previously provided to Ukraine were diverted from their intended recipients or stolen? Have any of the weapons fallen into the hands of criminals or terrorists?
- Are you and your administration confident that you have effective end-use monitoring capabilities in place and enough resources to ensure no weapons will be used against U.S. citizens or those of allied nations, like weapons from the Balkans which were used in recent European attacks?
- Will the administration commit to the creation of a special monitor to ensure that funds sent under this and other aid packages to Ukraine are not subject to waste, fraud, and abuse and comply with all Arms Export Control Act requirements? This monitor should be modeled after the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction.
As Greenwald and Tobin wrote, the House signatories noted the juxtaposition between sending billions of dollars to Ukraine, a country where Barack Obama said the U.S. had no vital interests, while Americans are paying the price here with rising inflation, food shortages, and an overall economic downturn here at home.
“The American people did not elect us to pour their hard-earned money into a conflict halfway around the world with little ability to track the end use of weapons or their effectiveness,” they argued.
Nobody is arguing that what is happening to the Ukrainian people isn’t a travesty, something they never bargained for. However a country which has a long history of corruption such as Ukraine, bears intense scrutiny and oversight. Asking the government to maintain watch over hard-earned tax money handed over by the American people to the US government isn’t too much to ask.
The authors noted that event the bootlicking New York Times, which never passes on an opportunity to kiss the collective butts of Congressional Democrats and the Biden administration, questioned the ease at which the package glided through Congress. In fact, the Times appeared shocked.
In reporting on the House vote, the outlet observed that members of both political parties “appeared too frightened to express concerns or even scrutinize what the Pentagon and CIA are doing. The Times took the same tack after the Senate quickly approved the package last Thursday, writing:
“…the speed with which it moved through Congress, where the leaders of both parties raised few questions, given the gridlock that has prevented domestic initiatives large and small from winning approval in recent years.”
Back in the 1960s during the Vietnam War up through the Iraq War in the late 1980s, Democrats could always be counted on to act out in opposition to any type of military conflict. Greenwald and Tobin note that no longer seems to be the case, with the 22 House Republicans taking their place. The Republican lawmakers argued that “no path forward on ending the conflict in Ukraine has been outlined” by the Biden administration, which ironically was specifically what Sanders had argued in his February op-ed.
Ironically they write, neither the Biden administration nor Congress appears to be particularly interested in any form of negotiated settlement. It’s either full-speed war or nothing. That sentiment was echoed at the World Economic Forum in Davos Monday, when “moderate” Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) outright rejected any type of diplomatic solution, claiming the only acceptable outcome is a full military victory by Ukraine and the U.S. over Russia.
Greenwald and Tobin are rightly concerned about the fact there has been little, if any, public debate over America’s role in Ukraine where any question about that role is met with accusations of being puppets of Putin. Americans and members of Congress should be rightly concerned by the apparent unmitigated escalation of the U.S. role in the country Obama said posed no strategic benefit to our country.
Congress is supposed to act in an oversight capacity for any military engagement, be it direct or through the provision of money and weapons. Removing Congress from that role, the authors write, means it has no role at all.
In closing, Greenwald and Tobin wrote:
“Even if one supports the spending of $40 billion more and untold amounts into the future as this war drags on, there is no denying that the few dozen members of Congress demanding answers from the White House about their strategy, their management of these expenditures, and their ability to control the destination of these weapons are doing their jobs.”